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As our homeschooled students approach high school many of us who have always done unit studies & other, more relaxed forms of learning begin to think it’s time to “get serious” about academic work and we believe that leaving behind the immersion style of hands on, authentic learning is the appropriate thing to do. We wonder how a student can obtain high school credit for project based learning. Earning Credits with Project Based Learning offers some insight for homeschooling parents and their teens.
Choosing a Project
If you are considering this idea, then it is likely that your high schooler already has a lot of potential for project ideas. Some things to keep in mind as you plan:
- Determine the Course– Based on your student’s area of interest. Remember this a student project which comes from their interest. It is not assigned by the parent!
- Discuss Goals– Meet with your student and talk about the skills & concepts they would like to cover during the class.
- Remember Skills & Concepts– Which will be necessary to learn in order to achieve the goal. Make a list of the areas your student will need to cover.
- Consider Resources– What resources do you have available to begin working toward the goals the student has set for himself?
- Start Making Plans– Where does the student want to start?
- Time– Once again, large quantities of time to explore are best for moving toward an authentic & independent learning experience.
- Record Keeping– Students will want to keep track of goals met and different avenues traveled based on decisions made.
- Project Goals Can Vary– One project doesn’t have to be an entire course. You can have multiple projects which are a part of other coursework.
Be Your Student’s Mentor
Some of you may have been reading long enough to know that our high school senior has studied to be a falconer since he was 12. His illness has set him back, but he still plans to follow through on this goal in this project area. When it’s time, he just needs to build the mews and get the proper inspection and licensing before trapping and caring for his own red tailed hawk or kestrel. At 12, he was young enough that we thought another adult needed to enter the process with him so that we could help with his bird. Committed to his interest, my husband took hunter safety with him and I studied for and we both passed the falconer’s exam. In this case, it was part of mentoring our 12yo son in his profound interest of falconry. What else does being a mentor look like?
- Help with Goal Setting– Bring your older kids to the table and let them take the lead in their own learning.
- Model Lifelong Learning– Keep up with your learners so you can discuss topics with them and to continue learning yourself. Reading what our kids are reading helps a lot in this area if nothing else.
- Provide Time– for your kids and teens to explore and find their niche.
- Make Available Space– So, your students can continue learning and not have to find the spot to work.
- Provide Materials & Resources– Make sure items are available and ready for use. Taking them to where the resources are located and generally helping them to get what they need to work needs to be a priority. I try to just anticipate what they will need at the start or as I see things that might be useful I leave them out. This is a tried and true method.
- Collaborate– Meet with your kids as they work and see where they are and how they are doing.
- Be Available– Being a mentor doesn’t mean disappearing. It means being available while your student is working and consult with them.
Also, remember that as parents, you can choose to find other mentors for your kids based on interest. Mentors come in the form of online classes, local opportunities, family members, and other trusted adults.
How to Keep Records & Earn Credits with Project Based Learning
This is what everyone wants to know! What does a project look like day to day and how do you keep track of and earn the credits needed for high school this way. It’s not as difficult as you might think.
- Name Your Course– The project or series of projects is related to a course of study. Which one? Our daughter did an extensive snake study which was a life science or biology course. This is how you name it on the transcript. As mentioned in my planning high school post, the nuanced nature of the course is not necessary in a name. It comes into play when the course is described or asked about.
- Consider Credit Hours– One credit is 3 hours a week, half credit is 1.5 hours a week, and a quarter credit is 45 minutes a week. Whatever experiences come your student’s way as a result of the project, this is the time guideline to work by in order to earn the credit you want for the course.
- Keep a Project Journal– A place for the project goals and findings. Sort of a home base. Project central. Whenever your student slows down, she revisit the project journal to get reoriented and ready for the next layer.
Components of a Good Project
When we talk about Project Based Learning, we aren’t talking about just one assignment that is a project. These kinds of projects are large scale encompassing many activities and ideas over time. So, what sorts of experiences make a good project?
- Share Work with Others– Find ways for your student to engage others with his or her work. It could be as simple as showing off for neighbors and friends to setting up a community gathering.
- Help Your Student to Set Goals– The project belongs to the student. The best ones have the student in the driver’s seat on the leading edge of where to go next.
- Make Plans– Have your student make plans to reach his or her goals.
- Compile Resources– Can your student identify what he or she will need to meet these goals?
- Make Decisions– Along the way there will be decisions to make. Help your student to get past any bumps in the road while leaving them to be the one in charge on the project.
- Take Time to Discuss the Work– Find out how it’s going. Check in on progress. If something seems stalled remind your student of his goals.
- Make Time for Project Work– This is essential to being successful. Often as our children get older, we think their time is better spent doing more traditional academic work. Fight the urge to regard project time as less important! Large amount of uninterrupted time for doing project work is necessary for going deeper into projects.
Benefits of Project Based Learning in High School
There are many reasons to try this method of learning in high school. Some of my favorite reasons:
- Puts Your High Schooler in Charge– The biggest benefit is seeing your student take full ownership of his work. Projects aren’t something that the parent assigns. They grow out of a student’s area of interest.
- Leads to Authentic Experiences– Rather than contrived assignments. Our daughter talked with professors and students at our local veterinary school when she was doing research on something she wanted to know vs me assigning her a topic and just doing reading about it.
- Sharing & Collaboration– Are part of every day life in the world beyond high school. It’s an important skill which can result in even better work. Collaborating with mentors and professionals in a field will offer much to your student. Finding a way to share the work is a fun task.
- Deeper Learning & Understanding– Working in an area of profound interest to a student will lead to a richer learning experience. Once they figure out one thing, they move on to the next and press the envelope at their own pace. Beautiful!
- Gain Valuable Experience before College– Good students appear nearly alike on paper, but a well crafted experience in high school relating to their field of interest will not only get them started in meaningful work, but it helps them to stand out to admissions officers.
Resources for Learning about Project Based Learning
There are a number of books and websites on the topic. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Project Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self Directed Learners– This book gave our method of learning a name and it fine tuned how we quantify and approach authentic learning experiences which are driven by our students.
- Project Based Homeschooling Blog– You will find many articles, tips, posts, and courses on everything project based homeschooling. This is a great resource if you don’t know where to begin.
- College without High School: A Teenager’s Guide to Skipping High School & Going to College– I love this book for how it helps teens to think differently about high school. Batching work and earning credits is key.
- Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything– There are a lot of interesting ideas in this book, but of note are the suggested opportunities for connecting school work to the world around your students.
Project Based Homeschooling at Blog, She Wrote
- The Problem of Over Scheduling– The importance of having time to devote to the project based learning lifestyle. One thing is certain. If your students are going to pursue their education in this way, it does require uninterrupted time at some point and really on a regular basis.
- Sewing & Design Project Based Learning– The culmination of a large refashioning project with modeling the dress in a local fashion review. In addition, her piece was chosen to be in a curated display at the local library with design students from Cornell University’s Fiber Science & Design program.
- The Snake Project– A year of life science taught through the lens of snake care and biology. This was a fantastic study for our 8th grader at the time and could easily be adapted at the high school level.
- Project Workspace– One of the best ways to see thorough work is to provide the work space for your teens. How can you find space for them to work in?
- Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?– This is a post about the pros (and cons) of your teen getting a job. This related directly to project based learning because part of the project maybe volunteer or paid work in a related field.
- How to Make a Four Year Homeschool High School Plan– How to go about creating a four year plan for your high schooler.
All of our children have extensive projects areas that they work in and keep active. How can you use this approach while teaching high school?